Rivals Give Support to Microsoft in DOJ Gag Order Suit

Posted by at 9:49 am on September 6, 2016

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Apple, Google, and Mozilla are among the many industry titans showing support for Microsoft in a federal lawsuit involving Redmond’s right to disclose government requests for user data.

Redmond argues that it’s “unconstitutional” to prevent companies from informing consumers that the government is seeking their data. The statute, Microsoft says, violates the First and Fourth Amendments—the right to free speech and protection against unreasonable searches and seizures, respectively.

The Justice Department contends that Microsoft has no standing to bring the case, per Reuters, and suggestes the public has a “compelling interest in keeping criminal investigations confidential.”

Neither the DOJ nor Microsoft immediately responded to PCMag’s request for comment.

Friday was the deadline for filing friend-of-the-court briefs—the same day Mozilla announced it is joining Apple, Lithium, and Twilio in support of Redmond.

“Transparency is the core pillar for everything we do at Mozilla,” Chief Legal and Business Officer Denelle Dixon-Thayer writes in a blog post. “And transparency—or more appropriately the lack thereof—is why we care about this case.”

Though the Firefox maker has never itself received a gag order preventing it from notifying a user about a request for data, Mozilla says “these gag orders are sometimes issued without the government demonstrating why [it] is necessary,” Dixon-Thayer writes, adding that the feds often issue “indefinite orders,” preventing companies from ever notifying its users.

“These actions needlessly sacrifice transparency without justification,” Dixon-Thayer continues. “That’s foolish and unacceptable.”

According to the April suit, as reported by Reuters, Microsoft received 2,600 federal court orders in 18 months, prohibiting it from informing customers their personal data was used in a criminal investigation.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation, as well as five former FBI and DOJ officials also submitted amicus briefs supporting Microsoft.

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